As balloons surround the little boy and whisk him away across the skyline, the enraptured audience of young Syrian children breaks into cheers and applause. And so ends the FilmAid screening of the Palm d'Or-winning film, Le Ballon Rouge ("The Red Balloon") bringing much needed joy to children displaced by the ongoing tragedy in Syria nearly 60 years after its production.
I am writing to you from Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan on the third anniversary of the conflict in Syria. A conflict that has seen nearly half the country's population forced to flee from their homes and that has claimed over 100,000 lives. Today, FilmAid joined a global coalition of over 100 NGOs and charities that are coming together to mark this anniversary with a call for solidarity and hope.
Candle-lit vigils and the release of red balloons, inspired by street artist Banksy's reworking of his iconic "girl with a red balloon" image are taking place around the world, from Trafalgar Square in London, to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, Moscow and Paris. Close to Syria’s border, in Za'atari refugee camp, children displaced by the conflict also participated in the #WithSyria campaign by releasing balloons and watching the film.
As you can imagine, it was an incredibly moving event and I'm very proud that FilmAid could be involved. This was our first activity in support of Syrian refugees, however, I hope it is not the last. Over the coming weeks and months we will be looking at how we can provide information and empowerment to the millions that have been displaced by the ongoing conflict.
I'd like to thank Films Distribution for their help to make the screening possible as well as the other coalition partners, including Save the Children, Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Arab Network for NGO Development and the Permanent Peace Movement.
-- Simon Goff, Executive Director